Caption: Marshal Foch and others, standing by the railway carriage where the Armistice was signed.

At 5am on 11 November 1918, in a railway carriage, used by Marshal Ferdinand Foch as an office, parked on a siding in the forest of Compiègne, an armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied powers. With this small action, over four years of violent destruction was brought to an end.

By summer 1918, the people and nations involved in the war were exhausted, and public opinion was turning strongly against the ongoing conflict.

The escalation of the war as it progressed began to disrupt supplies of food and other essentials, and across Europe groups began actively resisting its continuation through strikes and other means. The Russian Revolution of 1917 overthrew the Tsarist regime and the treaty of Brest-Litovsk ended the fighting between Russia and the Central powers, although the Russian Civil War would soon take its place.

Following the disastrous Chemin des Dames offensive in April and May 1917, up to 50,000 soldiers mutinied against the war and the conditions they were forced to endure.

In Scotland, as early as the summer of 1915, the industrial workers of the Clyde undertook rent strikes, opposing the war profiteering of unscrupulous landlords. The Red Clydesiders went on strike repeatedly during the war, a movement that culminated in Glasgow's George Square in January 1919, with tens of thousands on strike, violent clashes with police and the deployment of troops and tanks to the city.

Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated and celebrated military officer and poet, who had turned against the war following his wounding at Arras in 1917, published a letter strongly opposing the continuation of the war. His friend Robert Graves intervened to prevent his court-martial and possible execution, and he was instead sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment for “neurasthenia”, now known as post-traumatic stress syndrome.

One of the most significant acts of resistance was in Germany, where a small mutiny in late October by sailors at Wilhelmshaven quickly escalated. In just over a week the key German naval base and town of Kiel was controlled by revolutionaries, dissent soon spreading to Hamburg and further afield, and ultimately directly leading to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the 11 November armistice. 

Around 6 hours after the Armistice was agreed, the fighting on the Western Front ended. Germany's allies, Bulgaria, Turkey and Austro-Hungary, had already agreed to armistice terms in the preceding weeks. The Armistice itself was not the formal end of the war, instead being a ceasefire agreement and the formal beginning of peace negotiations. The ceasefire itself was extended on several occasions, and the First World War formally concluded in June 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.

The day of the Armistice itself was a bittersweet occasion. In cities and towns across Scotland, celebrations were soon underway, but everywhere those celebrations also held an acute understanding of the cost of the previous four years. No person within Scotland had not suffered during the years of war, and in some cases they would continue to suffer from its effects for the rest of their lives.

Although not the end of the First World War, today the anniversary of the Armistice has become a focus worldwide for its commemoration. Each year around the globe, memorials are visited, both on the battlefields themselves and in towns and villages far from them, and ceremonies are held to remember those who lost their lives in the First World War, and those that have followed.

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